Alberta flood victims mostly out of luck with insurance

Alberta homeowners who hope to make claims with insurers for flood damage will be out of luck in most cases.

Not all flooding covered under insurance policies

Seeking flood disaster assistance

10 years ago
Duration 4:45
Most insurance policies don't cover the kind of flooding that's happened in southern Alberta

Alberta homeowners who hope to make claims with insurers for flood damage will be out of luck in most cases.

That's because not all flooding is covered under most insurance policies.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says water that comes in through doors and windows — called "overland flooding" — is not covered.

Vehicles covered by comprehensive insurance

"First and foremost we encourage all individuals in danger of flooding to take the proper measures to protect themselves and their loved ones," said Bill Adams, vice-president of the Western and Pacific region for the bureau.

According to a statement issued by the bureau, the purpose of insurance is to spread risk among many policy-holders, but overland flooding is a risk for only a small percentage of the population — those that live on a flood plain or close to bodies of water. Also, most homeowners are not willing to pay the costs to be protected against the risk, rendering flood insurance unaffordable to those who need it.

Flooding related to sewage backups, which could happen outside of flood zones, is covered under most policies.

The insurance bureau says those whose vehicles have been flooded and have comprehensive coverage will have the damage covered.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths noted there will be uninsurable losses and warned that property owners aren't intended to profit from the flooding.

"The fact that a person didn't bother to buy insurance doesn't mean the government will pay for it," Griffiths said at a news conference in Calgary.

Province pledges to provide relief

Property will be restored "back to what it was as best we can," he said.

Griffiths also said there is no insurance for homeowners hit by "overland" flooding.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the federal government has offered "any and all possible assistance to the Province of Alberta in response to the situation."

BMO Capital Markets economist Robert Kavcic said about a third of Alberta's economy would be stalled due to the floods, including tourism, retail and construction.

The immediate economic hit from the flooding would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Kavcic estimated.

"You're going to have a hit to retail sales in the very near term," he said.

"But when the water recedes and people go back out to the stores, you're going to get some replacement spending there, too."

The floods also could have a small fiscal impact on the Alberta government because this year's budget for emergency assistance spending is $200 million," Kavcic said.

"It's clearly going to be a lot bigger than that."

According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, claims filed for provincial coverage do not include damage that was covered by insurance. Government programs are in place to cover damage for which insurance is not readily available, such as overland flooding.

Alberta faced a similar situation in 2005 and Calgary residents and business owners received more than $14 million in compensation.

Property owners can call 1-800-377-6378 to reach the Insurance Bureau of Canada with questions. The bureau is a national industry association representing Canada's private home, care and business insurers.

With files from CBC News